"Um, boss, we need to talk." Agent Taylor straightened. Normally, wire-tap was boring. This could be interesting.
"You're late, DiNozzo."
"Yeah, well, my apartment's bugged, my car's bugged, I'm assuming this line is bugged and that they've got my cell under surveillance. What I want to know is *what the Hell did you do to Fornell to get the FBI tailing me*?"
Taylor reared back from the unexpected sound. He rubbed his ears.
On the other end of the line, Agent Gibbs chuckled. They all knew his voice by now. "Get your ass to the office."
"Right, boss." DiNozzo's voice was poisonously sweet. "I'll just call him to join us myself. I know, even better, I'll call Viv."
"You do and they'll never find the body."
"Yeah, yeah. I've been trying to figure out what they touched in here. I'll have to send all of my suits to the cleaners again. This is not how I expected to spend my Tuesday morning. Besides, we've been out of town for a week. I think an hour or two late isn't that unreasonable."
"I'll be there as soon as I find my car keys. I dropped them someplace and I have no idea where."
"McGee's coming to pick you up."
"Don't do that to me, boss. I'll be good. Quiet as a mouse. I finished my report last night."
"Then get here before he gets there."
"Bastard," DiNozzo's voice was calmer now. "Tell Abs I want to borrow her oscilloscope. I don't have bug-finding equipment, but I know she does. Then, Agent Stuck on Wire-Tap Duty, find out which FBI idiot has my place bugged or find me the subpoena before I take you to court. See you soon, boss." The NCIS agent hung up. He shifted a few pieces of furniture. "Aha, got you, you little bastards," he muttered. There was a soft tinkling sound that had to be the bell on his keychain. Taylor hadn't figured out *why* he had a bell on his keychain yet, but was willing to bet that it had to do with a female. Then, he was out of the apartment and into his car.
The music started playing about the time the door lock clicked shut.
"You're still late."
"I've already got forty hours this week."
"You don't get overtime pay." Gibbs smirked at his second in command. "Do it again and you'll be sparring with Ziva for a month."
DiNozzo winced. "Any luck with the FBI?" The younger man dropped his backpack by his desk.
"Fornell's looking into it. Not his department."
"And I thought he was just pissed at you for something."
"How'd you find the bug anyway?"
"My phone started the stereo singing and I traced the feedback." He shrugged. "I still need Abs to help me do a sweep. I don't think any of my dates are wanted, but who knows these days." He settled in his seat and pulled up his computer system. "We have a case?"
"And for this you're mad at me for not being on time? I think I should call in sick."
McGee smothered a snort.
"You want to be sick, I can arrange it."
"That's an evil smirk, Gibbs. Do you need more coffee?"
"Well, my second was two hours late and didn't call in." Their eyes met for a moment. Gibbs saw the moment the comment hit the guilt button. DiNozzo knew damn well that Gibbs worried about him.
"Right, Boss. Won't happen again." The green eyes dropped to his screen. He blinked. "Um, Boss, I think I might have figured it out.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing. I mean, they’re not interested in me. They haven’t gotten the memo about how I’m persona non grata with my family.”
“Did they finally catch your father for tax evasion?”
Tony snorted. “His accountant is better than that. No, looks like my uncle threatened to kill him and they think someone’s going to contact me about it.”
“And someone did.”
“Yup. Uncle Manny says and I quote ‘I didn’t include you in the contract.’ End quote. Wonderful. Now I have to report this.” He picked up the phone. “Who’s our rep this week?”
“Lovely.” Tony rolled his eyes. “Morning, Andrea. This is Tony DiNozzo. Give me a call back at 5543. That woman is never in her office.”
“Uncle Manny?” McGee asked. “And should that be capital on family?”
Ziva smirked. She’d been surprisingly quiet so far. “I take it McGee doesn’t know about the Mafia connection?” she asked sweetly.
“And if you were doing a background check that thorough, you’d know that I’ve been disowned,” Tony smiled at her. He batted his lashes. “Which means no one needs to know.” His voice was saccharine sweet. “And I’ll thank you for not discussing my uncle with anyone.”
“Why is he threatening your father?”
“They’re brothers?” Tony shrugged. “How should I know? The last time I talked to my father I made an appointment and took a lawyer.”
“You should have taken a bodyguard,” Fornell said as he strolled into the area. “Fascinating file. I should have looked this up years ago. You actually got straight A’s?”
“Tony?” McGee grinned at the older man’s discomfort.
“Want to let me sort the lies out for you?” Tony put a hand out for the file.
“Let’s see what is this? Drama classes. Was she pretty?”
“Gorgeous.” Tony smiled, eyes unfocussed. “Best TA on the campus. Four months of bliss.”
“And this is interesting. Looks like your Uncle Manny has you listed as his next-of-kin instead of his son. How’d that happen?”
“I won’t kill him when he’s helpless.” Tony shrugged. “Let me see what other BS is in there.”
“That will cost you.”
“How much? Cash, coffee, or services?”
Gibbs glared at his second. “The cash and coffee you can offer, but your services are mine to offer.”
“Extra-curricular activities are not in our contract.”
Tony frowned. “What do you want, Fornell?”
“The agent in charge of this case is Patrice Barton. She let me have the file on the understanding that I’ll get you to stop torturing her wiretap agents.”
“They don’t like my music?” Tony grinned. “I didn’t even put it at Abby’s levels.”
“You put It’s a Small World on endless loop.”
“I knew entertaining girl friends' children would come in handy some day. Serves them right for bugging my stereo system. Did they think it was just for show?”
Fornell smirked. “Is it the same system you had in Baltimore?”
The FBI agent shook his head. “I thought you had better things to spend your money on.”
“I got a great deal and it didn’t fall off the back of a truck. You just need to know how to shop. So let me see this biography you’ve got.”
Fornell shook his head. He flipped through a few more pages. “Ah, here it is. ‘Dominic DiNozzo put a hit out on Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. last weekend. It’s assumed that this is merely a threat to make a point, as it is believed that Anthony DiNozzo will voluntarily give up power if pressed.”
Tony started laughing. “He’ll give up the family business the day they peel his cold, dead fingers off of his bottle of Scotch. If I’m lucky Manny’ll take care of that for me. Then, he’ll go to prison and we can dissolve the whole mess before my mother’s brother tries to move in.”
“You want your father dead?”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Just stating the most likely scenario. Of course, he could do us all a favor and finally have a heart attack. I think he’s too stubborn to die though.”
“You don’t believe that Manny will actually kill him?”
“Oh, I think he will. I just don’t think he’d hire someone to do it. It was just a way of announcing his intentions.” Tony’s cell phone rang. He glanced at the number. He sighed. “Perfect timing.” He flipped it open. “Five years with nothing and now twice in one day? The world must have ended and I didn’t notice. Now, if Papa calls, I’ll know the devil’s got a new bobsled. I’m busy. Call me after work.” He snapped the phone shut and verified that the line was closed. “Barton’s minions can tape that conversation later. Now, what other idiocy has the FBI come up with?”
“Let’s see, you witnessed a hit at twelve.”
“Nope. That was Pete. We just look alike.”
“Enough alike for him to be arrested for your prank?”
“I never got him arrested. He just didn’t want to take responsibility for his own actions.” Tony scowled. “And he went down for it too. Fingerprint evidence and everything.” He shook his head. “I can only state that the brain damage improved him. He’s a nice guy now. Only took a bullet to the skull to do it.”
McGee winced. Ziva smirked. "I have known a few men where that is true," she commented.
"Hm. SAT scores."
"If you say one word, I'll shoot you and deal with the paperwork," Tony snapped.
Fornell chuckled. "Why didn't I recruit you?"
"Because you're a Feeb and you knew I wouldn't take the job." Tony gave him his sweetest smile. The FBI agent shook his head. "So, why are they watching me now?"
"There's a hit out on your father."
"They're pretty sure they're going to be contacting you."
"Well, duh, to see if I want to be the trigger and go down for them which is an obvious no. They have to ask at least."
The team stared at him.
"What? It's only polite."
"If you were raised by hyenas," McGee said.
"I was raised by my nanny," Tony said, voice pointed. "My father's wives didn't really care about the day to day. See, I didn't make my bones at fourteen, so they're just being kind."
Ziva started. "You were sent to military school because you did *not* kill someone?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "No killing, no stealing, no drugs. I wasn't slacking off at school, but I didn't want to go into the business so," he shrugged.
"No, really, why didn't I recruit you?" Fornell asked again.
"Gibbs got me first and he doesn't share well."
"If you're done distracting my agents, they have work to do," Gibbs stated firmly.
"I'm stealing your boy for a hour," the FBI agent stated. Gibbs' eyes narrowed. Tony moved out of the line of fire. "It's that or I take him to Hoover as a witness."
"One hour. I'm timing it. Use a conference room. Do not leave the building." Gibbs pinned Tony to his seat with his eyes for a moment. The younger man nodded.
"Right, boss." Tony picked up the phone. "Hi, Liz, do you know if conference room 303 is open for an hour, like right now? It is, great! Can you book it for me? Thanks. Come on. And let me see that file."
"Is it my father's or mine?" he prodded as they left the area.
Ziva looked at Gibbs. "Do you wish to know more about his family?" He just looked back at her. Her lips quirked up. "I see, you have already interrogated him?"
"Reports are due in two hours."
Tony settled in one of the conference room chairs and swung his feet up onto the table. He looked up at the projector. "So, talk to me."
"How often do you talk to your father?"
"He sends me a birthday present and a Christmas card, usually with something insulting like a Wal-Mart gift card inside." Tony shrugged. "But as for actual contact through the phone or something? The day he sent me to Rhode Island he saluted me with his McAllen and told me I was on my own. Haven't talked to him since."
"Pete? I send him buttons for his collection. His caretaker thinks he's doing pretty well. He might actually be able to get a job. She's trying to get him training."
"I meant Mickey."
"Don't remember him."
Fornell's brows rose. "No, he's not. He's working with your father."
Tony shook his head. "My brother is dead. He died when I was ten about three weeks after Mom's car went off the cliff."
"I have pictures." Fornell spun one across the table. Tony stopped it with a finger. He frowned at it.
"Doesn't look tall enough to be Frankie."
"You're taller than you were at ten. Frankie DiNozzo went to Sicily when he was fifteen to work with the family network there."
"What? He came back during the summer when I was there with Nonna and she never mentioned him? I don't buy it."
Fornell smirked a bit. "That's because you were sent to your mother's family and he was sent to your father's family. You simply never crossed paths."
"Have you ever actually been there? It's the biggest gossip mill." Tony paused, frowning. "Nonna did take me traveling a lot though."
"Now why would your father make you believe Frankie was dead?"
Tony stared at the FBI agent for a long moment. He almost liked Fornell, but there was something about him that always made his hackles rise. Maybe it was just the fact that Fornell and Gibbs were friends and Gibbs didn't make those easily. "Probably so I'd agree to take over the family business. He never passed up an opportunity to emphasize that the business was more important than I was." He managed to keep his voice casual, but he had a sinking feeling that the man saw right through that just like Gibbs would.
"He's a son-of-a-bitch isn't he?" Fornell mused, shaking his head. "You're going to be seeing your family soon. I want a report of what happens."
"How can you be sure of that? Uncle Manny called, but that doesn't mean he's going to come see me. He knows I'm a cop."
The agent chuckled. "Because you're next in line to take over the family business."
"Disowned, meaning, out of the will, out of the business, out of the family. They didn’t even call me when my father married his latest bimbo." Tony shrugged, but that one still stung. He'd managed to make himself believe that his father's drunkenness and evilness was the result of grief over his mother's death. "I never made my bones. I never worked any of the shops. There's no way I'm in line for anything."
"Yet your uncle has you as his next of kin."
"Like I said, I won't kill him." Tony shrugged. He folded his hands over his stomach. "It's been a Hell of a weekend, so let's just wrap this up. You think my family is going to contact me. I think they aren't. You think that my father is going to be killed. I think you're right. You want a report on what happens. Sure. You want me to stop torturing the techs, never going to happen. You bug me, you pay for it."
"You want to not be put in protective custody, you stop torturing the techs."
"Protective custody? For what? There's no threat to me."
Fornell looked at him blandly. "You're the son of a mafia don. You're a cop. I can get a warrant in ten minutes."
"I don't know which one of us Gibbs would shoot first." That got a grin from the older man. "I'll stop the Small World, but I'm not going to sit by and let them keep my place bugged. They can monitor the phones, I don't care, but they're messing up my stereo and surround sound system and I will *not* let that by."
The FBI agent smirked at that. "I'll let Patrice know. Now, about these grades, I thought you were a B student."
"No one ever said I had to tell you the truth," Tony sulked. "Gibbs made the deal for himself only."
"When was the last time you talked to your grandmother?"
"Before she died last year."
"Your grandmother DiNozzo, not Cappella."
"I've never even met the woman." Tony shrugged. "My father's family doesn't like me. She thought my mother was a whore."
Tony rolled his eyes. "Not when she was actually *married* to my father. Besides, his first wife was dead by then. Frankie's mother. Isabelle, I think her name was." He shrugged. "Nonna considered it the family business. I convinced her that I wasn't interested."
"In marrying for money." Fornell's brows rose again. Tony frowned at him. "What?"
"Your shoes cost more than my suit, DiNozzo."
Tony rolled his eyes. "I know a tailor. He's taking new business. You want a card?"
"Yes, he makes me suits. I give out his cards and talk him up to anyone I can. He's got a lot of female customers now, but he likes making suits. He'd love to get a crack at the FBI. He thinks the majority of feds are badly dressed. Except for me, of course." Tony grinned. He fished for his wallet to get a card. "At least let him look at your suit-coats. He's great at making your gun invisible."
Fornell shook his head. He still took the card. He knew a few agents who'd be able to use it. "Tell me about your uncle."
"Manny? You should have a freaking file on him." DiNozzo closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. "He's my uncle. He's in the business. He doesn't mind me. Thinks I'm a bit of an idealistic idiot, but he likes me better than his sons. Of course, my father thinks I'm just an idiot, so Manny at least admits I have one positive quality, so I like him better than my father. He sends me Christmas cards, birthday cards, and the occasional 'are you really sure I can't convince you to work for me instead of the cops' card."
"You ever bust one of his people?"
"Yep. Any time he gives me evidence, I bust someone. Or I pass the information on to whatever local LEO I can find to do it for me."
"So your grandmother wants you to marry a rich woman. Your uncle wants you to join the family business and your father what?"
"Assumes I'll end up in the gutter and come crawling back to him." Tony checked his watch. "Not much longer before Gibbs gets impatient."
Fornell smirked. "You like hiding behind him?"
"Gibbs? I don't hide behind him. I just sit on the side-lines and watch him roll. It's like a nature documentary. The unwary gazelle versus the crocodile." Tony mimed crocodile teeth snapping together with his hands.
"You tell him about your family?"
"He hired me. He deserved to know. He needed to know that I can't set foot in Philly again without getting shot." The NCIS agent shrugged. "Should have known better than to go into Mr. McKelvey's territory since he doesn't like my father at all, but I didn't think he had anything against me. If Frankie's still alive, then maybe he just got us confused."
"A year and a half before he put a hit out on you. What did you do? Date his daughter?"
The young man tugged at his tie. "Yeah, actually. Didn't know he was her father. I still talk to her. She's a good friend."
Fornell couldn't help but chuckle. "You sure can pick 'em."
"Hey, the assassin story is not true, no matter what Gibbs tells you. She was not an assassin. She was a mercenary."
Tony's phone buzzed. He answered it with an off-hand, "Hey, boss." He sat up sharply. "He's here? How the Hell did he get past security? I'm coming. I'm coming." He hung up. "Come and meet my father. You can add him to your mob-boss collection."
Tony strolled into the bullpen. "Papa," he greeted politely. "Nicky. Did you leave the rest of your entourage in the car?"
"Anthony," his father said, reprovingly.
Tony restrained the urge to roll his eyes. "We were just having a chat about you," he said instead. "And here you are. Guess that whole speak of the Devil thing is real."
Nicky smirked. "Give me five minutes with him and he'll be more polite," the body-guard informed his boss.
"Actually, that's not a bad plan. Explain to my son exactly why he's going to do as he's told."
"Last I heard, I wasn't supposed to be your son anymore. Something about being out of the will?"
"Not out of the will," DiNozzo Sr. corrected, "just not allowed to touch your funds until you're fifty."
"Or dead. Why are you here?"
"Is there somewhere private we can talk?"
"I'm just going to tell them anyway," Tony replied. "Oh, how rude. This is Agent Fornell with the FBI. These are my partners, Agent David and Agent McGee. And this is my boss, Agent Gibbs. Everyone, this is my father Anthony DiNozzo."
His father's lips quirked up into an amused smile. "Yes, I remember you're an officer of the law. Still, talking to the FBI? I raised you better than that."
"You didn't raise me at all. The grinning hyena behind you did. Boss, Nicky's the one who taught me all those bad habits with a gun. He never did make Sergeant. Feel free to pull rank."
"Your wrists were weaker back then," Nicky shrugged. "Show some respect for your elders, kiddo." He offered Tony a quick, affectionate hug.
"But I'd lose my status as a rebellious teenager." Tony pulled back from the hug.
DiNozzo Sr. shook his head. "The hit went out for Anthony DiNozzo. That means Nicky will be looking after you."
Nicky didn't even pause before smacking Tony across the back of the head. His dark eyes were furious. He lapsed into Italian. "Anthony Daniel Thomas DiNozzo, you will do exactly what you're told. I will not let you be killed by stubbornness."
"I can look after myself," Tony snapped back. "I'm not a kid anymore. I'm an adult who get shot at on a regular basis. I don't need a bodyguard. And even if I were willing to accept protection it would not be from either of you! Hell, the FBI has already threatened protective custody."
His father and his 'nanny' re-evaluated Fornell. "A deal then, Tony. You allow the FBI to take you into custody and I won't have Nicky watch you."
Tony was torn. He looked between Nicky and Fornell, frowning. He switched back to English. "I've got a Devil's bargain to decide, boss. Do I let Nicky stalk me, or Fornell arrest me?"
"Protective custody is not an arrest," the FBI agent pointed out.
"It's not stalking," Nicky stated. "It's protecting."
Tony's phone rang. He looked at the screen and smirked. "Hey, look, I bet this is a third hat in the ring." He answered it. "Hi, Uncle Manny. Yes, I sort of noticed he's here." He listened to his uncle rant for a minute. "Sorry, but he's not the one who started this. If you wanted him dead, you should have shot him yourself like a man. As of now, you have the FBI breathing down my neck and Papa and Nicky bugging me about protection. My boss is glaring daggers at me. The only person who hasn't chimed in is Uncle Guillermo and that's because he's mute. So, wrap it up. I'm not getting in the middle of this. And no, I'm not moving to New York, Chicago, or Milano. I happen to like my job and I'm not letting any business with the family that freaking disowned me over fifteen years ago interfere with it. Capice?" he demanded.
Nicky was openly grinning at him. Tony rolled his eyes at the older man. He'd missed the man. But since Nicky hadn't made an effort to be at any graduation, or even bothered to send a note since Tony had been sent away to school, Tony wasn't all that thrilled with him either.
"Great. Because you can't type, suddenly someone might be coming after me. Brilliant. Yeah, love you too, idiot." He hung up on Manny's protests. "Fornell, tell me there's some good reason to arrest these two. Please?" He gave the FBI agent his best puppy-dog eyes, the ones usually reserved for making Gibbs not make him stay in the hospital. Fornell's brows rose.
"No open warrants," the FBI agent shrugged. "Unless you have some evidence for me."
"No one in my family is that stupid, unfortunately." Tony glared at his father. "Except, it seems my uncle can't type and the 'senior' didn't get put on the hit. Boss, give me a third option."
Gibbs smirked and Tony's eyes narrowed. "I can use some help with the planking."
That made the younger man pause. "Damn, hard labor, FBI, or Nicky. That's actually a really hard decision. Could I convince you to make steaks if I buy them?"
"Your tipping point is steaks?" Nicky demanded.
"My tipping point is that if I end up in Gibb's guest room I don't have to listen to you bitching or the FBI bugging me for information I do not have. The steaks only sweeten the deal. Gibbs'll let me work cold cases. Besides, him I trust at my back."
Nicky bristled at that. "We need to talk," he said in a surprisingly even voice. Tony snorted. He was losing his touch if he couldn't get Nicky's temper set off.
"No, Nicky, we don't. Everything my family had to say to me has already been said. By the way, do you want the drill bits Papa sent to go with the Power Sander and Drill that are still in their boxes? I was going to put them on eBay, but I haven't had time."
His father closed his eyes for a moment. "Tony, stop it."
"No." There was no point in trying to say he wasn't looking to rile his father. He'd made it into an art-form by the time he was fifteen. It was, of course, as with his usual crappy luck, that the Director decided to see what the fuss was about.
"Is there a problem here, Agent DiNozzo?" she asked, voice sharp.
"No problem, Madame Director. These two were just leaving."
"You're taking orders from a woman?" the elder DiNozzo demanded.
"Yes, I am." He might not like Jen Sheppard, but he'd be damned if anyone talked badly about his agency. "She worked her way up. Unlike you." And that was probably the most insulting thing he could have said to his father. Right on cue, his face started to get red.
"Anthony Daniel," his father ground out.
"Last time I checked," Tony said cheerfully. He started counting down in his head.
"A woman will only get killed. They should not be in this life! Do you want a sniper bullet to kill her by mistake?" DiNozzo senior's voice was sharp. He'd lost his first wife to one and Tony knew that. It shouldn't have surprised him, but the rage that filled his chest had nothing to do with a woman he'd never met and everything to do with feeling his partner's blood across his face. Tony didn't need to know what his face looked like. The fact that his father actually stepped back a pace made it clear that it wasn't nice.
"Fornell," Gibbs snapped. The FBI agent caught Tony's shoulder.
"Get out," Tony snapped. "I don't want to hear from you again. You don't know anything about me or my job. You don't know anything about the women I work with. They're stronger than you'll ever be. I'll take care of myself. Unlike you, I have people I can turn my back on."
Nicky's eyes widened. Director Sheppard's eyes narrowed. DiNozzo senior met his son's gaze with matching eyes. He frowned. "Who was she?"
Tony's hands fisted. "My partner."
"And her killer?"
"No, though I'd have pulled the trigger."
Tony's father nodded slowly. "We will meet for dinner. That is not a suggestion, a question or something you can refuse. I should at least know you better than your uncle."
Tony snorted. "You could have tried calling me. Manny's got my number. So does Pete's minder."
"And you will meet your brother again."
"I don't have a brother. He died when I was ten."
"Si. The Frankie you knew died at fifteen. Meet the man he became."
"Jesus Christ, the FBI was right about something?" Tony blinked at his father. "You are a cold-blooded reptile. How the hell is it that we share any DNA? You know what? Forget it. Give me your number, Nicky. We'll set up dinner someplace that's thoroughly bugged by the Feebs."
"Tony," his father said mildly.
"No bugs at the dinner table."
"Right, like the FBI doesn't have a file on all of us." Tony bit back his laughter. "Fornell, think your girl would like dinner?"
Fornell chuckled. "I'll let her know she's invited."
DiNozzo Sr.'s eyes narrowed. "Anthony." His voice was low and sharp. Tony's spine stiffened against his will. Their eyes met. Tony was reminded suddenly how much the face in his mirror looked like his father. He hated it.
"Just go, sir," he said, in a matching tone. "And don't come back to this building."
"I'll go where I choose."
Nicky broke their staring contest with his phone number on a post-it he'd stolen from Ziva's desk. "Call me. We'll eat at your apartment. I'll bring the food."
Both men looked at him with interest. "Are you cooking?" Tony asked almost eagerly.
"No, I'm buying."
Tony frowned. "But it's been years since I had one of those meals like Natalia used to make."
"And it'll be longer because I'm not cooking. Call her up and maybe she'll give you a recipe."
Tony's father laughed outright at that. "She's not that sweet on anyone but you, Niccolo." He inclined his head. "Still, this is not the place for this discussion. Tonight at seven?"
Tony looked to Gibbs. His boss gave him a small nod. "Seven," Tony confirmed. "I'll call if I have to work late." The two visitors left. Tony took a breath. "I won't apologize for him, Director. But I will ask for your support if I end up shooting him and taking the payment."
Director Sheppard's lips twitched. "Try to keep it holstered. Think of the PR nightmare."
"They might actually use the agency's initials in the report," Tony offered. "You know, because it'd be a scandal."
She left them, shaking her head in amusement. Fornell snorted. "I'll let Patrice know to move the bug out of your speaker and into the kitchen." He left with a short nod toward Gibbs. Tony flopped down into his chair. He met Gibbs' eyes for a moment, then dropped his gaze to the blotter on his desk.
"I'll just get that report finished, Boss."
"I'm coming to dinner."
"Of course you are because my father and I aren't stubborn enough."
"Right, boss. They won't kill me." He met the wolf-blue eyes easily. He read the message there. "But someone else might try. I get it. I do." He held up a hand in surrender. "I'll even make sure I have JD for you."
Niccolo Perilla had been working for the DiNozzo family since he got out of the service at 22. He'd known of the DiNozzos since he was old enough to walk. Frankie's guardian angel was a man named Paco Santini. He still protected Frankie and would probably take a bullet for the man before he retired. Tony on the other hand had made it quite clear at fifteen that he was not going into the family business. He'd announced his intentions to go into law enforcement over dinner one night. He was probably trying to get his father to have a heart attack. The ensuing argument had spanned three days and ended up with Tony being driven to Rhode Island with a suitcase and a small account for his expenses while at school. Nicky had been ordered to leave him alone and it was the hardest thing he'd ever done.
Now, he waited across from the NCIS parking garage in a rented Camry, a cell-phone and a local directory of restaurants. The security guard watched him with a blank face. Nicky had been in charge of security long enough to know he was being watched. He climbed out of the car with the book and phone and crossed to talk to the man who was watching him. "If you hadn't seen your son in about fifteen years, which restaurant would you call?" he demanded.
The guard's brows rose. "What type of food?"
"Italian or Mexican."
"Take out or eat in?"
"El Diablo for Mexican or Coppoti's for Italian."
Nicky nodded. "Thanks." He looked along the street. "Two o'clock. Top of the building," he stated. "One of yours?"
The guard didn't react beyond lifting his head slightly. "Possible shooter sighted."
Looking after Tony was not a job to be taken lightly, for all the younger man teased him about being a nanny.
"DiNozzo, go sign a car out."
"You're not taking your car tonight."
"Because that POS is so stand out. It's not like the other two. My insurance company got too twitchy for me to have anything but a beater."
"That 'beater' is a classic."
"Not yet. It's a POS classic," Tony argued. "That also means it's got more metal on it than any of our fleet except the SWAT van. If someone tries to run me off the road, I can bite back. That's how they took out my mother."
McGee and Ziva looked at Tony sharply.
"Your mother was murdered?"
"Yeah, she was run off a cliff when I was ten. It's why Papa took me to Maui with him in the first place. Right after the funeral. Frankie died the day we flew out." Tony stopped. "I guess he didn't really. That's going to take getting used to."
"DiNozzo." Gibbs kept his voice soft, but firm. The young man nodded.
"Right, boss. A car. You sure the Director won't pitch a fit about the budget?"
"She doesn't want you dead. Yet."
Director Jen Sheppard tried not to be surprised about anything involving Gibbs' team. Still, arresting two known hitmen just outside the headquarters of her agency made her more than a little wary of what surprises lay in store for the rest of the week. Of course, they were after DiNozzo, so that made a certain amount of sense. "Agent DiNozzo, how well do you know Niccolo Perilla?" she asked. The agent blinked at that. He relaxed into the visitor's chair. Obviously it was not the opening he'd expected.
"Nicky was my caretaker when I was a kid. Call him my guardian angel." A quick, fond smile crossed DiNozzo's face. "But knowing in terms of what? Today was the first time I'd seen him in about fifteen years."
"Why is he outside our building locating snipers?"
"He's my guardian angel." Tony's brows rose. "And if our guards weren't spotting them, then maybe he should be watching the place. I'm guessing he plans on tailing me home and then trying to smother me with over-protective reactions when he finds out that I've been shot, stabbed, hit, and caught the plague." He paused. "Though I don't think I'll be telling him about that. The lecture I got from Gibbs was bad enough and he only knows three-quarters of my guilt buttons." He shrugged. "He's a former Marine. He's been working for my father since he got out of the Marines. So, he was say twenty-two when he started looking after me."
Jen raised her brows. "Your father entrusted you to a man he barely knew?"
"He was a Marine with an honorable discharge, sniper training, and managed to survive Vietnam. Papa respects that. And Nicky signed up for it. Papa was drafted."
"You father was in the service."
"His father wouldn't let him go for more than one tour. He had to run the business."
"And you're going to be taking over that?"
Tony laughed at that. "Me? No way. Besides, according to Papa my brother's actually alive which means, double no because I’m not the eldest." He shook his head. "I'm supposed to meet with Angela in about fifteen minutes," he told her. "To let her know that everything's gotten a bit weird."
"See if you can talk Mr. Perilla into consulting with our security team."
She dismissed the young man. She shook her head. Growing up with a Marine for a nanny. That explained a lot.
"You couldn't have waited in the hall?" Tony asked rhetorically as he opened the door and found his father, his nanny, the man who had to be his brother because they looked too much alike to not be related, and Paco.
Gibbs followed Tony in, hanging his jacket on the rack and closing the door.
"What is he doing here?" Papa DiNozzo demanded.
"Watching my six," Tony said evenly. "You must be Frankie."
Frankie stood with a smile. "Hello, Trouble."
Tony blinked. "I thought you were dead. For twenty years I've thought you were dead."
Tony's older brother jaw dropped. He glared at their father. "What did you tell him?"
"That you were killed in an accident the day we flew out to Maui."
"A car accident?" Frankie seemed offended.
He turned to look at his brother. "I’m surprised you're willing to get into a car at all."
Tony shrugged. "I met the man who killed Mama when I was twelve. He explained things to me." All eyes fixed on him. "What?" he looked to Gibbs for guidance.
"You planning to arrest him?" Gibbs asked.
"No. There's no proof. Besides, he keeps an ear to the ground for me. He told me about McKelvey's hit."
Gibbs nodded acceptance. He'd always accepted Tony's sources for what they were, crooks who hadn't been sloppy enough to be caught yet.
"McKelevey in Philly?" Tony's father demanded.
"Yeah." Tony drew the word out into a "well, duh" statement. His father's eyes narrowed.
"Anthony Daniel," he ground out.
"Yes, sir?" Tony kept his voice light and sweet.
Frankie laughed. "Come're, Trouble." Tony's brother opened his arms for a hug. Tony looked at him for a long moment. Frankie didn't move. He just waited. Tony shook his head.
"Sorry. I don't hug strange men."
Gibbs snorted and Tony elbowed him. "Miller's not strange, he's a frat-brother."
"He eats bugs."
"World record holder."
Frankie crossed his arms and frowned. "I think we need to talk. Without them." He flicked his hand in the direction of the older men, including Gibbs in his assessment. He opened his jacket. "I'm unarmed."
Tony rolled his eyes. "I'm not. Don't worry about it. You shoot me, Gibbs will kill you. Simple."
"There's more of us."
Gibbs smirked. Tony glanced at him out of the corner of his eye to catch the twinkle he knew would be there in spite of the threat assessment. Gibbs thrived in dangerous situations. "Don't piss them off, okay, boss? That's my job."
"Go. I'll start the coffee."
"Use the good stuff."
"As opposed to the crap you drink?"
Tony paused on his way to the bedroom. "Pretend you're making coffee the rest of the world can drink. Please?" he added as he looked over his shoulder at the older man. Gibbs shooed him with a glance.
Frankie studied his little brother. He was dressed in a suit that was tailored to hide his gun and shoes that wouldn't look out of place in a corporate boardroom. His hair was a little spiky, but looked like it had come from a magazine cover. His face was flat, vaguely inquisitive. It made him look like a not particularly smart boy-toy. He looked like his mother. It probably had people spilling their guts to him without ever knowing it. "I didn't know he'd told you that I was dead. He sent me to Italy. He told me he was going to do the same with you."
"Why didn't you write to me?"
"I did. I wrote you every month. I never got a letter back."
"I never got a letter. You put your return address on it. Of course. Damn it." Tony frowned. It made him look older, more dangerous. "So you knew about the fight? Me being sent to Rhode Island?"
"What fight? And tell me you don't mean the Naval prep school?"
"That's the one. And the fight would be me announcing I was going to become a cop."
"And how old were you when you announced this?"
"That was pretty much everyone's reaction. Except for Rita. She just pinched my cheek and made sure I had enough to eat."
"Rita?" Frankie frowned. "One of the cooks?"
"Si. She married a groundskeeper." Tony shrugged. "Sort of Papa's fault anyway. He's the one who kept getting drunk and leaving me to watch television or play with the help."
"Papa is not a drunk."
Tony snorted. "I made his freaking drinks when I came home from school. He might not have been a drunk when you were there, but he's always been drunk around me."
Frankie chewed at his lip. "Have you met his new woman?"
"No. I wasn’t invited to the wedding. I'm out of the family." Tony shrugged. "It hurt at the time, but I'm used to it now."
"You'll hate her. She's not even as classy as his mistress."
"You mean Carla? She's cool. Doesn't expect me to like her. Wait? Why didn't he just marry Carla? He's been with her longer than either of our mothers?"
"Because he's an idiot. I made him get a pre-nup with her. And he didn't write you out of the will, no matter what he told you. I found out you were a cop about. . ." Frankie checked his watch. "About three hours ago."
"Funny, that's about the time I found out you were still alive. Didn't really believe it though." There was a softening in his little brother's stance that Frankie considered a positive sign. "He left me in Maui to arrange your funeral."
Tony frowned. "Yes. Not even Nicky was there."
"That son-of-a-bitch," Frankie muttered. He shook his head. "Listen, I know you don't know me, but you're always going to be my little brother 'Trouble' to me. I don't like the fact that you're a cop. I don't like the fact that Papa's been lying to both of us for years. I'm going to find out what he was thinking. You just stay quiet and look innocent and heart-broken."
"How about sulky instead? It's more normal. I used to be able to set off his temper in less than a five minutes. Either I'm growing up, which I hope isn't true, or he's getting more even-tempered."
"He really wants this. He misses you."
Tony rolled his eyes. "He could have tried sending a letter. Or maybe calling me. Uncle Manny's kept in contact. Pete's minder keeps in contact. Hell, I even get emails from DiSorrento about which casinos I shouldn't be found in if I want to keep from getting shot."
"I want copies of those emails. He's been trying to get me knocked off for years."
"So, you're taking over the Business?"
"That's the plan."
"That means you've made your bones." Tony's voice was flat.
Frankie winced. "When I was thirteen."
The younger man looked ill. "God," he whispered. "Just like the freaking gang-bangers I used to bust in Peoria."
Frankie stepped forward. He put his hand on Tony's shoulder, only to have it shaken off. "Tony," he tried.
"No, don't pretty it up. Just tell me exactly what happened."
The young Mafioso opened his mouth. He closed it with a click. "I can't. You're good. I almost told you everything."
Tony gave him a sly smile. "It's a talent. Gibbs does intimidation. I do seduction." He shrugged. "You'll have to tell me some day. When I retire. If I live that long, of course," he added pragmatically. "And if you do." Tony shifted uncomfortably. "So, you married?"
"No. Papa's pushing it and Paco keeps lecturing me like an old mother about getting an heir. You?"
"This is my place. You see a female influence here?"
Frankie looked around the room. He smirked. "Well, yeah, I do."
Tony looked around his room. "Oh those were Mama's. Nicky packed them for me when I was sent away to school." He crossed the room to the small crystal bottles. He stroked the smallest one. "They've made it to every home I've had. They even survived a frat house."
"I'm glad you have something to remember her by." Frankie crossed the room. He wasn't going to be pushed away this time. He was going to hug his baby brother, gun or no gun. He slid one arm over Tony's shoulders, surprised that they were now the same height. The younger man scowled at him. Then, he gave in and let Frankie wrap his arms around him. He buried his face in his big brother's shoulder. He shivered, then wrapped his arms around Frankie as well.
"I have the sailboat you gave me," he murmured. "I won't let anyone look at it or touch it. I wanted to sneak into your room and get one of your shirts, but they were gone when I got back from Maui."
"Oh, Trouble." Frankie tightened his grip. He'd always promised his step-mother that he'd take care of Tony. He'd obviously failed miserably. His baby brother was a cop. "Why a cop?"
"It's what I need to do. I grew up watching Magnum, TJ Hooker, Hill Street Blues, all of those shows. There was Nicky telling me about the military. And when Papa introduced me to the Business, there was no way. After Mama died. After you died. There was no way I was going to be just another killer. I became a cop because I needed to make up for it. I needed to keep other kids safe. Then, I started liking it. I like solving puzzles. I love it. I flew through my tests. I devoured ballistics information. I almost went back to school for Forensics, but I like working with people more than I like being cooped up in a lab." Tony pulled back. "And these days it's even more important. It's not just every day murders and thefts. Oh, those are part of it, but it's also international terrorists and biowarfare and protecting the people who protect the nation. I can't walk away from it."
"At least you're not in the FBI." Frankie offered after a moment's consideration. They both laughed at that.
"I wouldn't be caught dead wearing an FBI quality suit."
"Come on. Let's collect some answers from Papa and eat the food that Nicky's been keeping warm in your oven."
"Did he clean it first? I don't think I've used it since I moved in."
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